Every day during the school year, teachers in Ogden High’s automotive program opened the auto shop garage door first thing in the morning, well before school started. And every morning, they’d see the same familiar face.
Xander Bachison, a 2019 graduate of Ogden High who was in the automotive program during his junior and senior years, would be standing outside waiting to come into the shop.
Before and after school, Bachison worked on his own auto projects and discussed issues he was encountering with his teachers, Scott Eddy and Jim Cook. He even ate lunch with them every day.
“His senior year, he was the first one in the shop, and the last one out,” Cook said. “He took every opportunity he could in the automotive program to advance his knowledge.”
He also took apart his own car, a Pontiac Grand Am.
“He disassembled it until we were both knee deep in it,” Eddy said. “I remember laying upside down ... where the seat is ... helping him put the dash back together because he had no fear. What he didn’t know, we were able to kind of figure it out together.”
These hours spent outside of school working, studying and discussing paid off.
Bachison took first in the nation in the automotive service technology category at the 2019 SkillsUSA Championships, held in Louisville, Kentucky, in late June.
SkillsUSA is a “national organization serving more than 300,000 students annually through nearly 4,000 local chapters,” according to the organization’s website. Located at many high schools, it helps students develop skills in technical areas as well as interpersonal skills that will help them be effective in the workplace.
At SkillsUSA competitions in Bachison’s category, participants rotate through several stations to demonstrate their skills in different areas to judges who are professionals in the field. Competitors spend about 20 minutes at each station — which made for a long day at the national competition, where Bachison spent time at 15 stations.
Bachison was judged on categories ranging from heating and air conditioning to engine repair to steering and suspension.
Eight of the areas were determined by Automotive Service Excellence, a recognized leader in automotive certification, Cook said. Bachison also took a written test.
“He had to have a very, very wide knowledge of the complete automobile to be successful in this contest,” Cook said.
Bachison’s competition was steep. Each high school in Utah could only send one competitor to the state level in each category, so schools only sent their best. He beat out 16 other competitors in the state to advance to the national competition.
At the national competition, all states and U.S. territories are invited participate, and most send participants, all of whom placed first in their state competitions. Bachison outperformed 46 other competitors across the nation to take first in his category.
As a result of his stellar performance, Bachison was awarded scholarships to two technical schools with locations across the country, but he’s decided to pursue his education at Weber State, where he plans to study electrical engineering and advanced vehicle systems.
In the long term, he wants to be an engineer for a car manufacturer. He’d love to work for Rolls-Royce, but he said he’d be happy working for any car company.
Bachison says the support of his teachers at Ogden High, and their flexibility, helped him thrive.
Other schools in the area don’t allow students to bring in their personal projects, like he was able to do at Ogden High School, Bachison said.
In other programs, students often work only on the school cars and progress at the speed of the class. In contrast, Bachison would often work ahead on his own projects, because he’d already done the things his class was working on.
“From what I’ve seen from my peers, as well as me, you’re more motivated to work on something that affects you,” Bachison said. “So working on the school’s car ... nobody really cares. I mean, you do it if you have to ... where your own vehicle, you’re motivated. It directly affects you. You’re doing something you want to do because you chose to do it.”